General Question

Seelix's avatar

So. Ottawa is now saying that non-Canadian same-sex couples who came to Canada to marry starting in 2004 are not legally married (see article inside). What are your thoughts?

Asked by Seelix (14914points) January 12th, 2012

As you may know, in 2004 Canada legalized same-sex marriage, which led to a ton of people flocking north (or east, or west, or whatever) in order to marry here.

Now, Stephen Harper is saying that, if the couple cannot be legally married where they live, they’re not legally married here in Canada either. Check out this article in today’s Toronto Star.

How do you feel about this? It makes me want to throw up. I’m actually so disgusted that I can’t quite articulate my feelings on the issue right now… So I’ll weigh in a little later when I can think straighter (Rimshot! Ha ha!) about it all. In the meantime, please share your thoughts.

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37 Answers

tranquilsea's avatar

That makes me soooo mad! BUT I am really not surprised that our PM has made this declaration as it lines up with not-so-central ideology.

tinyfaery's avatar

The declaration is pretty useless. Didn’t we all know that? No point being married in another country if your own country/state won’t allow it.

marinelife's avatar

It is their right to have a residency requirement.

Seelix's avatar

My issue is more with the fact that this is only coming out now, seven years later. Don’t you think the couples should have been informed of this stipulation at the time, rather than spending their time and money travelling to Canada only to find out years later that they’re not legally married?

KatawaGrey's avatar

Honestly, I’m with @tinyfaery on this. What’s the point of getting married somewhere you don’t live, only to have the marriage mean nothing legally when you get back home?

I have to wonder if this is a way for the Canadian government to cover its own ass, legally speaking. If they officially say that the marriage doesn’t count in Canada unless it counts where that couple lives as well then I would imagine there may be fewer legal issues.

Although, saying it seven years later really does suck.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I also agree with @tinyfaery and everything @KatawaGrey said.

It would be easier if every country made it legal so that this wouldn’t even be an issue…

SavoirFaire's avatar

One point to getting married somewhere you don’t live is that many countries have laws that require them to recognize marriages legally performed in other countries. So if Florin allows same-sex marriage and Guilder does not, but if Guilder has a law that says it will recognize marriages legally performed in other countries, a same-sex couple can get married in Florin and have that marriage recognized in Guilder.

Now, the US has made it clear that same-sex marriages count as an exception to these sorts of laws. Many think that this is open to challenge, however, and a large number of people returning to the US with a legally binding same-sex marriage from another country could be a force to reckon with in the courts. It also lets people see that two people of the same sex were allowed to get married without the world coming to a fiery end.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

@SavoirFaire So, you’re saying this could be some kind of protest?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@AnonymousGirl Among other things.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I see the logic there. Eventually, they’d have to decide if it was a waste of their time or not to prosecute people for simply loving and wanting to be with a person of the same sex. It reminds me of polygamy cases I’ve heard about. Thanks to them, even I (who has been strongly against polygamy in the past) feel that it should be legal, as long as everyone involved is okay with it. There is just something about hearing real people and real voices…. that make it so much more real. I remember this one woman especially who seemed offended that polygamy was illegal. The emotion did it for me. I’m completely for it now, so long as it’s what they want. It doesn’t seem fair that divorce is okay… and yet there are still people who really love each other who just can’t be married, even if they are more committed to each other than several monogamous straight couples these days.

muppetish's avatar

It’s one thing if the couple gets married in Canada and then returns home to a country that does not legally accept same-sex marriage (most countries/states would not recognize it, though some do recognize outside marriages as legal for same-sex couples.) However, when Canada makes it so that their law says “sorry, you can’t marry here if your home country doesn’t allow it too!” irks me. What’s the point of interpreting the law this way? It just seems a less progressive step. Let the backwards home country sort out the issue.

It wouldn’t leave quite so bad a taste in my mouth if they had made this clear from the beginning before couples had been marrying to start their new lives years and years ago.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^^ The government might not want to deal with the paperwork or the legal issues that have probably arisen because of it, as @KatawaGrey has suggested.

Seelix's avatar

You’ve got it right on, @muppetish. That’s what’s bothering me, too, mainly the “Why wait until seven years later” thing.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Lack of foresight, maybe. They might not have expected it to be so popular. They might have felt like people wouldn’t try to get around the laws in their own lands.

Seelix's avatar

@AnonymousGirl – I suppose that’s possible, but I think it’s really unlikely.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

It is true that I like giving people the benefit of the doubt, so I could be wrong…

Seelix's avatar

@AnonymousGirl – I don’t like the alternative, either, but I find it unlikely that any government, Canadian or otherwise, would be – dare I say? – stupid enough to not foresee the thousands of same-sex couples who would jump at the chance to be married.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

To be fair, they might not have realized how common homosexuality was back then. I certainly didn’t.. and I am not even part of the government. I live in Ottawa… and I remember people would make fun of people for being gay… and it seemed like almost no one was gay. It seemed like people started becoming more and more open about it after same-sex marriage became legal… and there has been a total attitude change in several people, including myself. Schools here talk about it more freely… and homophobia is bashed on now, when before it was gay people who were and homophobia was more socially acceptable. Things can change.

noodle_poodle's avatar

It does seem a bit stupid. But then It gives people a good reason to move to Canada. I really cant see any reason for same sex marriages to still be illegal anywhere especially in countries where its more about law than religion anyway.

Nullo's avatar

I’m glad that they at least have the decency to keep it to themselves. I hope that they stop recognizing same-sex marriage altogether.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Nullo Yes, truly the treating of other human beings as if they were trash is a paradigm of decency. ~

Seelix's avatar

@AnonymousGirl – “Back then”? You know we’re talking about 2004, right? That’s seven years ago, not seventy.

Sorry. I really don’t mean to come off as condescending, but may I ask how old you were in 2004? I was 24, and well aware of the prevalence of non-hetero people. And I’m from Northern Ontario.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

14. Does this mean my opinion won’t count because of my age? I think you mean 2005, anyway (at least for when it became fully legal nationwide)... July 20, 2005 to be exact. I was 15 then. We had a Liberal PM then… Paul Martin. PM Stephen Harper is a different PM… a Conservative. Shouldn’t that already say that they have views on things that are different to start with? The Conservatives were not the ones who introduced the Civil Marriage Act, the Liberals were.

Seelix's avatar

Of course not. What I’m saying is that people’s worldviews change as they age and mature, and as they gain experience in the wider world outside of elementary or high school.

I’m just suggesting that it’s possible that your lack of experience or awareness of homosexuality could have been, at least in part, due to your age. Your world at the time was likely a lot more limited then than it is now.

I honestly don’t think that there’s been that much progress over the past seven years that the government would have been that much less “aware” of the prevalence of homosexuality in Canada.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Well, like I said, I could be wrong…

But then, you’re asking a PM to make sense who seems to like the idea of having more prisons and being tougher on crime (disobeying the law), including victimless crimes.

geeky_mama's avatar

Two of my dear friends are being directly affected by this.
Let’s call them Bill & Ted. Bill was born in Canada and raised in both Upstate NY and Ontario. He met the love of his life in the Twin Cities and they bought a farm in Wisconsin and settled happily into life together.
When Canada legalized marriage (after they’d already built a life together for nearly 2 decades) they happily decided to marry because as married partners they could immigrate to Canada. (And not only enjoy proper legal status as married partners, but also continue to build their life together in a lovely part of BC.)

Because they married while still residing in Wisconsin (which they HAD to so that Ted, who was an American citizen, could immigrate to Canada on a newlywed Visa) they are now among those that are going to be considered potentially NOT married legally in Canada.

Never mind that they’ve lived and built businesses and paid taxes in Canada the past several years (married), never mind that they own a home together (as married spouses), never mind that they are now both Canadian citizens…the fact that when they happened to originally get married they were residing in Wisconsin is enough to potentially nullify their marriage (at least from the standpoint of the law in Canada).

It’s sad really. This is a messed up loophole for them because they are Canadians and have lived in Canada ever since marrying.

They’re doing their best to be optimistic.. (B changed his FB status from “Married” to “It’s Complicated” as a tongue-in-cheek comment on this political mess) but Harper’s decision seems backward and poorly thought-out at best. I expected better from Canada.
But then.. I’ve also held out hope for more American States to stop marriage discrimination and have yet to see sufficient progress here in the States either.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

So, I have been reading more about this and apparently this is actually about divorce law (so that same-sex couples who want a divorce can get one easier) and certain articles blew the situation out of proportion. Uhh…

Conservatives suggest divorce law could be revised to help same-sex couples

Well, that changes things a bit, doesn’t it?...

* edit *

Hmm. This looks like the same link you provided in your description, but yet you seemed to not even mention that it was about DIVORCE LAW in your description? You took a major twist and added your own bias in it to make Harper look like an evil man. I am disappointed, even though he is not who I voted for in the last federal election. I really hate when people mislead people like that as you have done over such an emotionally charged topic. I hope it wasn’t intentional.

I hadn’t clicked on the link before because I took your word completely. I saw someone mention this on Facebook, though, and clicked on it from there.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Other things that I’ve stumbled upon:

Marriage is a provincial issue in Canada.

Divorce is a federal issue.

In order to get a divorce in Canada, you have to live here for an entire year.

It appears that Canada now has its first foreign same-sex marriage divorce case to deal with and that is the cause for this media firestorm.

That is your answer to why it took this long…

As for Harper’s stance on same-sex marriage, he seems to prefer to stay out of it, regardless of his personal opinions about it.

This has been overblown.

geeky_mama's avatar

@AnonymousGirl – it sounds as if you’re reading quite a lot and have researched this topic thoroughly, but I must respectfully disagree with your statement: “This has been overblown”.

The Harper government is taking the legal and political position that they don’t recognize same sex marriages even if Canada legally performed them, if their resident state/country doesn’t.
As mentioned above, I have friends for whom this is actually quite a large impact. Their marital status is now unclear because they are one of the estimated 5,000 “foreign” marriages and their marriage may therefore be nullified by this (not yet clarified) policy change.
They were residents of Wisconsin who married, then emigrated to Canada. Wisconsin doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, so therefore under Harper’s policy shift, although they are now Canadian residents, their marriage may be nullified.

What is causing the media firestorm is that it is illogical to go backwards and declare marriages null from a legal standpoint. It would be better to discuss this as a Sovereignty issue and provide clear legal proceedings (irregardless of the gender of the married couples) for both foreign resident marriage and foreign resident divorce.

The question that this comes from is: Why would Canada require a same-sex divorce plaintiff and defendant to reside in Canada for one year before granting a divorce?

The answer SHOULD have been: We’ll just waive the one-year residency requirement for divorce proceedings of foreign residing married couples.

Instead, they played a very different card. They are opening the door to entirely nullifying the legal basis under which over 5,000 couples married. Past tense.
The going back and changing legal-status bit of this is what is troubling to folks – and should be! It sets a bad precedence.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

The one year requirement is not unique to same-sex couples from what I can tell. It applies to everyone. I understand the idea of saying “Hey, we’ll make it an exception”, but that’s not really fair to everyone else. If they can get divorced in say, a day, then everybody else should be able to as well. I really don’t think making Harper a scapegoat in this whole thing is the right answer.

That article says “Stephen Harper said it was news to him and muttered he was not interested in re-opening the gay marriage debate.”

This has been his stance before. He doesn’t seem to want to even be part of it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@AnonymousGirl The reason for the original worry is that the attempt to liberalize the divorce laws cited in the article is a reaction to an argument made by government attorneys in court that same-sex marriages might not be binding after all. Marriage law and divorce law are not completely separate entities the way you seem to think they are, even if they are handled at different levels of government, and so how the law treats divorce must be reconciled with how it treats marriage. Thus the fact that it was a couple filing for divorce that started this incident doesn’t mean that the marriage laws will be unaffected.

The original problem is explained a bit more clearly here, though it is referenced in the article linked by @Seelix in the OP. Also, news articles are often altered as new information comes out. The version we are reading now might not be the same as it was when it was originally linked.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^^ I do agree that how the law treats divorce must be reconciled with how it treats marriage (if I’m understanding what you’re saying correctly), but I was under the impression they were already thinking about doing that because of the title. To be fair, I only read the text part of that article. I am not on a computer where I can hear sound right now, so I didn’t watch the videos. I clicked on the link you referred to and I will check it out now.

* edit *

Okay, I am done reading it now. I see no proof that this means they are going to view all foreign same-sex marriages that happened in Canada as null and void. It seems like they are in a rather difficult position at the moment because of the laws about divorce, so someone made a comment about how it’s not legal where they live anyway as an attempt to get around it. I understand that that causes controversy, but it seems like that person was trying to find loopholes in the law to deal with the problem. I understand that Harper’s attitude seems like he doesn’t care, but his attitude really doesn’t seem that much different as it was when he was running in the last federal election. When he says he doesn’t want to open the debate about it again, I am pretty sure he means he doesn’t want to deal with it at all if he doesn’t have to. It seems like an issue he would prefer to stay completely out of if at all possible. He seems to have the attitude “Let the courts handle it!”

Neizvestnaya's avatar

States and countries have residency statutes for a lot of things, marriage being a really important issue, people have to have researched to know?

I agree with many people that marriages should be legal everywhere.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@AnonymousGirl I don’t understand your response as it seems to assume things I never said. I’ve not said a word about Harper, and I’ve not said that Canada is going to invalidate anyone’s marriage. I was trying to explain the series of events—remember, we’re in the middle of unfolding news where information is changing rapidly—and why people interpreted things as they did.

A divorce suit was filed. The residency requirement was seen as making the divorce illegal. An attorney operating on behalf of the Canadian government suggested in court that this must mean that same-sex marriages of foreign nationals whose home country does not allow same-sex marriage are not valid, public worry and outcry ensued, Harper was asked about it and says the government is not reopening the issue, people continue to worry, the government decides to clarify the law so as to not invalidate anyone’s marriage.

This is the timeline I am presenting, and it ends well. Most of the worry, however, occurred prior to the last step. So while you want to accuse people of overblowing the issue because of how things turned out, it is only because of the second to last step in the above timeline that the last step came about so rapidly. Hindsight, it seems, is not always 20/20.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^^ I mentioned Harper because @Seelix did and I felt like you were disagreeing with me. It appears that you were, but not for the reason that I thought. Sorry for getting back to you so late. I was really tired when I read/answered your previous response and went to sleep soon after. Reading it with eyes that are wide awake now, I can see that you meant something entirely different from what I thought you did. I’m sorry about that. Maybe I should only participate in controversial threads when I am not tired.

AnonymousWoman's avatar


I also want to say publicly that my reaction to @Seelix after I checked out the link was too harsh and I should not have reacted like that. I should have been more understanding about why hearing news that can translate like that in anybody’s head could cause a public outrage, from anyone.

I do tend to assume that new articles are not tampered with as well, and I acknowledge that. I should stop being too trusting that news articles are never edited.

I appreciate both you and @geeky_mama for helping me see that I was wrong in saying this was overblown.

Here is recent news that can inspire hope:

Justice minister to review gay marriage law

Conservatives to change civil marriage law: Tories blames Liberals for gap in law; expert says there’s no gap

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